The idea that education ends when you get your degree is being tossed out the window by some companies who recognize that education should continue after you’re in the workforce. More businesses are offering their employees opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge while on the job.
Sending employees back to school is a win-win for both employees and employers. Companies get a better skilled workforce and a pool of employees that can work their way up in the company, and employees get credentials that might help them climb the career ladder.
For example, earlier this year, Anthem, one of the largest health insurance companies in the U.S, announced a company-wide program in which it will pay for all employees who work at least 20 hours a week and have at least six months at the company to get a bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University, which runs an online program called College for America. Anthem is now the third-largest U.S. company to invest in their employees’ education. Starbucks teamed up with Arizona State University’s online program and is covering four years of tuition for its employees, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles rolled out its own college tuition program for dealership employees through Strayer University.
“Our employees were asking for additional training and development, and not just related to technical skills but also related to other broader skills that can help them grow within the organization,” says Jose Tomas, executive vice president and chief human resources officer of Anthem. Since many of Anthem’s employees lacked college degrees, the program filled the gap and provided them with the opportunity to continue to grow within the organization, especially to reach particular goals that required a formal education. Better-educated employees provide Anthem with a broader pool to draw from for skilled positions. “We do have a strong philosophy of promoting from within,” says Tomas. “This has given our associates the ability to continue to grow by pursuing a formal education, which provides advancement opportunities for them.”
Tuition-reimbursement programs are nothing new, but companies are now realizing the benefits of teaming up with universities offering programs that are specific to enforcing the skill set they’re looking for in their employees.
Other companies, such as AOL, have created their own education programs. AOL University is an online tool employees can use to access anything from business skills to leadership, tech training, and people skills. “Our philosophy around learning is that we want to empower our employees,” says Marieta Mendoza, head of human resources for AOL Canada. “We’re looking to create a spark to help AOL employees become self-empowered careerists.” AOL University allows employees to take control of their own learning, and how they move within the organization. Employees who strive to become managers can take courses in the managers’ masters curriculum. AOL Canada employees are taking advantage of the learning opportunities. In the first half of 2015, the company offered 155 sessions and saw over 3,200 participants, which is over half of the entire AOL global population.
The flexible program recognizes that employees learn in different ways and at different speeds. Employees can study from home where they’re most comfortable. By providing employees with the opportunity to learn and advance their career, Mendoza says the company is creating a culture of engaged employees who don’t necessarily feel the need to leave the company to pursue their next opportunities. This results not only in greater retention rates, but a more well-rounded, smarter workforce.